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National security issues: Govt accepts ISI’s role in checking cyber crimes

By Zahid Gishkori
October 20, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The government has accepted a proposal by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to let its operatives take pre-emptive action against individuals and organisations breaching national security under the recently-enacted cyber crime laws.

“The ISI wanted a legal cover for action against those allegedly committing online crimes against the state and undermining the national security and we had to agree with the proposal,” disclosed a participant of a crucial meeting held at the Ministry of Interior on Wednesday.

Rules being formed under the newly-passed legislation called the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA), 2016 will empower many agencies to crack down on individuals misusing the internet, social media, in particular.

The federal government, under SRO (1)/2016, designated the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as the investigating body for the purpose to probe offences under the PECA, 2016 last month. The government exercised the powers conferred under Section 29 of the said Act.

“The new rules will empower the ISI to operate against those who commit online crimes,” the official further revealed.Representatives of information technology and law and justice will propose new rules after receiving proposals from all the stakeholders, he told Geo News.

The Ministry of Interior has also sought input of Intelligence Agency (IB), ISI and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), asking them to come up with proposals explaining their possible role under the new laws.

After receiving proposals from the ISI, IB and PTA, the Ministry of Information Technology will finalise their respective role and scope and nature of their job. “ISI, IB and PTA want to be a stakeholder in implementation of PECA (laws),” he added.

The existing legislation takes due care of various online crimes and it will be wrong to tinker with it further in the name of national security behind the back of Parliament, commented Senator Farhatullah Babar.

The question is who will define national security interests and determine its parameters, he questioned.  “Will criticism of an aspect of security policy or questioning the way security policies are formulated be considered as undermining national security? We should be guided by considerations of public interest and not by arbitrarily defined national security interests. Much has already been done or undone in the name of national security. We must watch against overkill and an implosion in the name of national security,” he said.

Special Secretary to Ministry of interior, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, who was presiding over the meeting, did not offer his comment. 

"The Ministry of Information Technology (MIT) is dealing with this issue and it is better to talk to them," he said. The MIT did not offer its view point on this latest development to this reporter till the filing of this story.

Meanwhile, the FIA under new cyber laws has registered 12 cases so far, senior investigators told Geo News.  “We have started taking action against individuals involved in online crimes,” an investigator of FIA said. Under newly passed laws, the agency shall establish its own capacity for forensic analysis of the data or in information systems and the forensic analysis reports.